This is a comprehensive book summary of the book Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski.
Worksheet: Download the interactive sheet for taking notes.
The Book In Three Or More Sentences:
A unique approach to understanding the issues we possess as a nation and also on an individual level. By interviewing the Devil himself, Napoleon Hill describes what is holding us back. The reason we’re depressed, overweight, and addicted to narcotics, drugs, cigarettes, sex, etc. During the conversation with the Devil, the curtain for a happy and successful life slowly uncovers.
The Core Idea:
In the face of the Devil, the author is placing thoughts, habits, surroundings which are making us prisoners, slaves to his Majesty. Napoleon Hill helps us understand that “going to hell” doesn’t happen after we’re dead, it’s happening at this very moment – while we’re living. The insights from the conversation with the Devil hold the key to overcoming the negative things that are happening in our own lives. Convince us that having a clear idea of where we want to go is crucial for slaying our inner demons and thriving as individuals.
5 Key Lessons from Outwitting the Devil:
Lesson #1: Hesitant – The Worst Disease Ever
Have you ever felt paralyzed from not being able to make a simple decision? I have. You rethink the same thing over and over again and never end up with a final solution. Some people struggle with this throughout their whole lives.
Sometimes you know what to do, but you’re not sure how to act or how exactly to apply what you know. In most cases, we end up postponing a simple task and eventually acting on the safe side. We do this because we’re afraid that doing something new will lead to something we can’t predict. And things we can’t predict are usually things we’re afraid of.
That’s why people never go to talk to the girl on the train. They never start their own businesses. Never do something new. They want to feel safe and feel in control.
But outside of our own security bubble lies something else. A world full of new emotions and adventures. Yes, there are times when doing something bold will lead to a dead end. But if you live your whole life playing on the safe side you’ll never truly live.
In short, being hesitant is not a quality you want in your skillset. If you are insecure, others will notice this pretty much immediately after you meet them. And other people don’t adore boring people that are predictable. Act boldly more often and you’ll build up your confidence and start making different decisions. Who knows, maybe one of those decisions will lead to a successful venture or a romantic relationship.
Lesson #2: The Six Deadly Fears
Fear of poverty, criticism, ill health, loss of love, old age, and death. These dreadful emotions are what the Devil uses to keep us
All of the things above are slowly installed in our brains while we interact with the outside world. By the age of 12, we can be already mentally damaged by the other kids our age, or even by our parents. If this is not noticed in time, we will probably grow up having all sorts of issues: low self-esteem, fear of the opposite sex, not having a clear direction in life, not being able to handle even the most basic problems.
The worst, by my experience, is having low self-esteem resulting in really awkward conversations with the opposite sex, tragic job interviews, constant anxiety while attending social events. Your inability to communicate with other people will most certainly screw your life and keep you away from evolving as a person.
Fear of poverty is even worse. We are so drastically scared of losing our jobs that we never do anything out of the safe zone. A lot of us start a job, thinking that is going to be a temporary one, but eventually, we never have the balls to quit so we can pursue our true calling. Worried that we might end up living on the street, we salute our bosses and obey their every command.
Fortunately, you can overcome these fears. Believing in yourself and your skills, honing your craft, connecting with the right people, finding your true calling, and never stop pursuing what you want in life. These will make you more confident and give you the strength to confront whatever life throws at you.
Lesson #3: The School System Sucks – Personal Education Is Key
We go to school to get grades and to memorize facts by heart. Not to understand what we want from life.
Ever since I can remember, my mother was constantly repeating that I have to get good grades, to graduate – “How else you will find a good job?” – she was saying. Well, I graduated from school, high-school, I even got a master’s degree. Did I get a good job? Not thanks to what I’ve learned in school. Actually, I developed in a completely different area than what I’ve studied for so many years I school. I lived with this false expectation for so many years – that when I graduate I’ll be a CEO, a real boss, a success.
Our current educational system is focused only on filling our brains with facts, data, information that don’t really help us in real life. The things we learn don’t give us solutions, answers, what to expect and most importantly how to handle real-life cases and issues. We tend to learn these things the hard way – after we experience them.
School stops kids from finding, developing their true talent. So, don’t rely solely on the school system for your education. To be honest, true mastery comes from outside resources – reading books, talking with people, attending conferences. Your college diploma won’t get you high in the hierarchy and get you a good job, your willingness to keep educating yourself will though.
Lesson #4: Set Goals To Defeat The Devil
By defining and clearly stating your goals, you will gain control over your life.
There is nothing more powerful than understanding what you really want in life and doing the necessary steps to achieve it. The process by which you can really accomplish the previous is by setting clear, well-defined goals.
Probably the best way to understand the importance of goal-setting is when we relate this to cooking. To prepare a dish, we need to obtain a list of ingredients. Once we acquire them, we have to strictly follow the defined steps in a recipe. When we do everything as mentioned in the receipt, we’ll eventually end up with a meal.
This explanation perfectly relates to settings goals. If you don’t have an idea of what you’re going to do, become, you’ll become something. It might be good or bad, you can’t really know from the start. However, when you know what you want – you have a goal. You know what path to take, what skills to learn, what things to acquire. The combination of all these things will lead you to the desired place.
When tackling life, set a goal that resonates with your persona. After that, list all of the things that you will need to reach that goal. Lastly, do what’s on the list.
The Devil hates people who have goals. He doesn’t have power over them. He can’t control them because they know what they are doing.
Lesson #5: Faith – The Foundation Of All Great Achievements
Faith and self-believe are the real fuel that keeps the creator, entrepreneur, innovator, pushing, trying to accomplish his goals no matter the temporary failures.
The world’s greatest achievements become a reality only after a series of defeats. One of the most mentioned examples is the journey Thomas Edison took. He failed more than 10,000 times till he finally figured out how exactly to harvest electricity from mother nature. This miracle was revealed to him thanks to his firm belief, that he can accomplish his goal.
It takes some real balls to keep trying after so many failures. The people who will keep pushing after so many obstacles are the ones who really believe in their craft and the ones that will truly succeed. Napoleon Hill refers to these people as such who found and revealed their “Other Self”.
According to him, everybody has two identities. One of which is motivated and responds to the impulses of the fear. The other, find inspiration and momentum in faith.
As you can imagine, the first identity won’t accomplish anything till it connects to her other, better part.
- Gain self-control: Before any admirable achievement, your persona might accomplish, you need to gain control over yourself – your actions and thoughts. Well, even though total self-domination won’t be possible – we tend to drift away and think about stupid things all the time – we should at least try to become better at controlling our emotions and doings. You can start with seizing your hunger. Often our appetite for stuff, sexual partners, junk food, money, more in general, is what fails us.
- Learn from failure: Failure totally sucks, I know. A lot of times it’s hard to believe that we can learn something from the misfortunes that inevitably occur in our lives. Emotions blur our mind and inappropriate language takes over when something doesn’t work out the way we planned. Yet, the adversities we tend to loathe are the greatest teacher in life. Next time a project fails, don’t blame the universe, think about what you can do better.
- Focus on your goals: The devil exists. He exists in our minds and he controls the ones who are weak. Weak to take control of their lives. Those of us who don’t have a plan about what will happen next, next year, tomorrow, constantly complain and wait for good things to happen to them but never act. If you want to cleanse the devil you don’t necessarily have to be a believer and worship a God. You just need to wake up and take control over yourself. Make a plan for your life and stop overdosing on celebrity gossip, the News, and low-quality information. Focus on yourself and your ambitions.
Commentary And My Personal Takeaway
Although the book was written more than 70 years ago, the content inside is completely true nowadays and it will be true for many years to come.
Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon was a wake-up call for me. It changed my perspective and made me rethink the way I want to live my life. While I was reading the book, I was still smoking, drinking, spending money like crazy. Once I was done though, I began to change. I realized how “The Devil” was all over me. And the only way to escape his insidious grip was to stop going with the flow and start living purposefully.
“Live purposefully with passion and with a clear idea of what you want to do, be and how to achieve it.” Napoleon Hill
“The capacity to surmount failure without being discouraged is the chief asset of every person who attains outstanding success in any calling.” Napoleon Hill
“Your only limitation is the one which you set up in your own mind.” Napoleon Hill
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